Why Restrict Pesticides and Adopt a Precautionary Approach?
The decision was based on what is known—and unknown—about pesticides.
The scientific literature is filled with studies that link pesticide exposure to a range of harmful health effects, such as cancer, reproductive dysfunction, birth defects, asthma, autism, learning disabilities, diabetes, Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s.1 Likewise, numerous studies have identified adverse impacts to the health of aquatic ecosystems.
At the same time, there is a lot that is unknown and uncertain about pesticide exposure, given the different vulnerabilities of children, elderly, and those with pre-existing illnesses. Synergistic effects and mixtures of chemicals and pharmaceuticals are not evaluated under current regulatory reviews. Neither are certain possible adverse effects—such as disruption of the endocrine system—fully evaluated by regulatory agencies in the U.S.. Lastly, ecological effects are not adequately studied and evaluated in the context of impacts to waterways and wildlife.
South Portland has decided to take a precautionary approach to restricting pesticide use. The science on adverse health effects continues to grow, and the risk assessment reviews accept varying degrees of data gaps and hazards associated with pesticide exposure. The City reviewed the science, regulatory standards, and availability of effective practices and products that do not rely on toxic chemicals to effectively manage lawns and landscapes, and has determined that its playing fields, parks, and yards can be managed without toxic pesticides.
The Precautionary Principle states,
“When an activity raises threats of harm to the environment or human health, precautionary measures should be taken, even if some cause and effect relationships are not yet fully established scientifically. In this context, the proponent of an activity, rather than the public, should bear the burden of proof. The process of applying the precautionary principle must be open, informed and democratic and must include potentially affected parties. It must also involve an examination of the full range of alternatives, including no action."2
The Precautionary Principle is a widely-adopted and globally accepted environmental management strategy, developed in the 1990s, as a way to manage risk and maintain public safety when data or scientific understanding may be incomplete.
Follow these links for more information and resources on the following topics:
- Benefits of moving to organic practices
- Hazards to children and human health
- Dangers to pets
- Impacts to water quality and soil health
- Threats to pollinators and other wildlife
- Issues with EPA’s existing pesticide regulations